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Animal ID: Ensuring Traceability for All

February 27, 2018
RFID tags

Published: February 27, 2018

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A common misconception among many 4-H families is they are not livestock producers; they are livestock showers in the sport of livestock exhibition. Animal ID requirements teach youth that they are a part of a larger livestock industry in which individual animal ID and traceability are important. As Indiana 4-H counties begin their animal ID processes, it’s important to understand why animal ID is required to participate in county fairs and the Indiana State Fair.

What is the purpose of animal ID requirements? Why are they important?

If you have animals, the general public considers you a livestock producer. Your actions can impact public perceptions of animal agriculture for good and bad. Animal ID requirements also prove that a specific animal is a 4-H member’s project animal. Ownership and ID deadlines set the parameters for the program year. This teaches youth to meet deadlines and pay attention to detail. It also ensures they have appropriate time to learn with their animal. 

Remember, this is not just a show. It’s about the learning that occurs between the ownership deadline and the county fair and/or state fair.

Complete List of Animal ID Requirements

Beef cattle

Dairy cattle females



Meat goats

Dairy goats

Pygmy goats



Disclaimer: Refer to 4-H animal show requirements for the Indiana State Fair. Some counties may have different requirements for county-only animals. Contact your county office for requirements of county only-animals.

What are the new species requirements for 2018 animal identification?

DNA hair requirement for all beef cattle (beef and dairy beef market steers, registered heifers, commercial heifers and dairy feeder steers). DNA hair samples for beef and dairy beef market steers are due in the county Extension office by April 1. Because April 1 falls on a Sunday in 2018, sample will also be accepted on Monday, April 2. DNA samples for registered heifers, commercial heifers and dairy feeder steers are due by May 15. Please check with your county office about earlier deadlines set by your county. Collection instructions and a how-to video are on the 4-H beef project page of the Indiana 4-H website. Collection envelopes are available from your county Extension office.

This requirement is for State Fair animals only. Please check with your county Extension office about requirements for county-only beef cattle.

Why was the DNA requirement added to beef cattle?

DNA was implemented for beef cattle for the same reasons it was implemented for swine a couple of years ago. DNA in swine allowed Indiana 4-H to give youth the benefit of doubt on animal ID, as is done with retinal imaging with sheep. If an issue occurs with a tag on a sheep, a retinal image of the animal is captured and then allowed to be shown when it matches. DNA has significantly reduced the stress of swine check-in. For the past couple of years Indiana 4-H has tried to give families the benefit of doubt with beef cattle when the families said they lost the tag on the way to the State Fair, or something similar. Think of this like an insurance policy against tag issues; it will only help 4-H members.


DNA is a permanent form of ID, to give youth the benefit of the doubt.

How is the DNA from swine and beef cattle used at the Indiana State Fair?

If any issues arise with the 840-RFID tags, county tags or tattoos, the 4-H member may have a DNA sample pulled at the State Fair to be compared to the May sample submitted to their county office. They are allowed to exhibit their animal with the understanding that if the DNA does not match, they will be disqualified. The 4-H member is not expected to pay for this onsite DNA testing.

All animals should be identified in Indiana 4-H Online. April 1 is the traditional ID deadline for beef and dairy beef market steers. April 1 falls on a Sunday in 2018, so Indiana 4-H Online will be open through the end of the day Monday, April 2 to ensure all youth can register their animal online. The deadline for all other animals is May 15. Contact your county Extension office for information on any earlier deadlines set by your county. Do not wait until the last minute to start the animal ID process.

For more information animal ID and the Indiana 4-H Program visit http://extension.purdue.edu/4h

Aaron Fisher is a 4-H Extension Specialist for Purdue Extension. He provides leadership to the Indiana 4-H Animal Science projects and develops opportunities for Indiana 4-H youth to learn about animals and agriculture.

Leah Jacobs is a sophomore at Purdue University studying Agriculture Education with a minor in Animal Science. She was a 10-year Indiana 4-H member and enjoyed showing Boer goat, beef cattle, and swine

Arin Weidner is a 4-H Extension Specialist for Purdue Extension. She supports Indiana 4-H programming with the creation of technology-facilitated curriculum and learning opportunities through partnerships with Extension staff and faculty.

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